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IN MEMORY OF TITANIC APRIL 10-15, 1912



EDITORIAL

Well, it appears that this page is somewhat outdated & I only have myself to blame. I do have plans for this site & will eventually get around to completing my vision for it but when that will be is anyone's guess? I do want to say some things however. The tragedy of the Titanic is perhaps the most compelling disaster of the twentieth century and more so in that it has shaped the way people travel by sea ever since. Though the death of 1500+ people is tragic and horrible, their deaths were not in vain because every person who travels by sea owes the changed maritime laws to that very tragedy. I cannot really imagine what it must have been like back in 1912 and to have been aboard that ship, but one can get some sense of the isolation and desperation those people left aboard must have felt once it became apparent to them that there were no more lifeboats for them to get into and that their death was probably immediate. Anyway, that's all I have to say for now but this page will one day be completed and will a fitting tribute to the legacy of the great ship that was named Titanic. This site was last updated July 2000.



First off, was Titanic ever really proclaimed unsinkable? Not as far as I am aware - until after the sinking occurred - though it was noted that with the addition of the watertight compartments it made the vessel "practically unsinkable" - note that the word (practically) has been dropped from the text ever since. I guess newspapers sell better with the headline "THE UNSINKABLE SHIP…SINKS" but it should be noted that neither the White Star Line (some people even get this wrong nowadays claiming the ship was owned by the Red Star Line or the Cunard Line) nor anyone else at the time "officially" declared that the ship was unsinkable. As Miss Eva Hart once said "To say a ship is unsinkable is flying in the face of God" and indeed it would be foolish to believe such a thing possible when the hull is constructed with iron and steel.

I do believe that some passengers and crew (and indeed White Star employees) believed that the Titanic was unsinkable. To understand this, one must go back in time and remember that you are looking at a ship that is almost 900 feet along and almost 95 feet wide. Along with the Olympic - which the Titanic resembled in more ways than one - they were the largest objects ever built by man up to that time. It is only today that we can look back with hindsight and say that yes, there is no such thing as an unsinkable ship and that such things really do happen but up until 1912 - there had never been such tremendous loss of life on one vessel and besides the Titanic and Olympic gave an air of permanence.

Given the time and outlook, it was a time of wonderment where dreams could come true and man thought that perhaps, yes, with all of the technological breakthroughs that we were in control of our destinies. One thing I really do object to is the rubbish that is being written about Titanic - people go on about how the ship was cursed and that the ship was unsafe etc. Bull crap! The Olympic and Titanic were two of the safest and strongest ships afloat at the time and White Star even provided more lifeboats than the Board of Regulations required them to carry. The Titanic, it seems, has been slighted to carry the sins of man and is blamed for everything possible. Even the crew do not escape unscathed as critics and cynics blame them for steering the ship headlong into an iceberg. Of course everyone conveniently forgets that the shipping lane was one that was regularly followed and that the crew took every conceivable precaution at the time. People fault the speed at which the ship was travelling but policy at the time demanded "full speed ahead" until one sees something and to rely on the lookouts. A foolish practice to be sure but the people associated with Titanic are not to blame. I think they did the best they could given the circumstances.

While I do fault the subsequent loading of the lifeboats, I think the reason it was a haphazard evacuation is that many people were unaware that they were in immediate peril - there was not any general ship-wide alert to inform passengers and even more so, can you imagine the panic that would have ensued had they announced that half of the passengers and crew were going to die for want of a space in a lifeboat? Also many people did not want to enter the lifeboats immediately - opting for the alleged safety of remaining on deck. Who can blame them? Imagine jumping into a lifeboat that is towering above a dark sea - illuminated only by porthole lights and then being jerked slowly down to the water. Many people found the experience terrifying but it would not compare to the sheer terror that would ensue once it became that the Titanic was indeed sinking.

In order to understand the disaster you need to remove from your memory all of the recreations in picture and film since the tragedy. Even though the recent James Cameron blockbuster "Titanic" is to be applauded for its authenticy they did change two situations (there are actually a few more but I will leave the nitpicking to the other section down below) to fit the environs of film making. First of all, on that night you could not see beyond a radius of two blocks or so and had no knowledge of what was happening around you. Secondly, when the ship actually sank, the only illumination provided was from the stars above. I do chastise the surviving passengers and crew for remaining put in their lifeboats while listening to the sounds of hundreds of people screaming for their lives but given that it was pitch black and that to enter the area meant putting their own lives at risk, perhaps I should try and understand their actions a little better? What would you do? Remember that you have just seen a vessel almost nine hundred feet long and sturdier than any other vessel afloat sink before your eyes. You could hear the hull ripping apart and the dreadful sounds drifting across the water. You saw the hundreds of people clamouring up the stern and poop deck before all of the lights went out - temporarily blinding you for a few seconds. Then you hear all of the awful screaming, pleading and begging of people you have left behind. You cannot see them but you can hear them and the sounds seem to last forever. Are you going to head back and try and save them - possibly dying in the process? For years I have been angry at most of the people for not even trying but really, is it fair? I was not in that situation and we all think we would behave differently until we are in the situation - and then for most of us our actions come as a surprise. It must have been a hellish experience - even more so knowing that the people struggling for their lives knew that partially-filled lifeboats were oft in the distance listening to them die. It is little wonder that many survivors did not want to speak about the disaster - or found it difficult to give details without breaking down.

Many people in third class (steerage) did not speak English. Contrary to popular belief, the Titanic was not built as a floating palace with rich passengers in mind. It was essentially an emigrant vessel - ferrying passengers who dreamed of a better life in the United States. It was a haphazard journey to be sure but third class in the Olympic class vessels was more often than not, more glamorous than anything they had experienced in life up to that point. Steerage was the shipping lanes dirty secret but they were the bread and butter for the trade - without them, the shipping industry might have collapsed onto itself. Also remember the scene in "Titanic" where Jack (Leonardo) is rushing to board the ship seconds before departure at Southampton? Third class passengers were the first to board the ship unless they were carried aboard via tenders in other ports. Out of mind, out of sight as it were…

Well, I think I will finish up here but more additions soon.


NORTH ATLANTIC CHRONICLE (MOVIE REVIEWS, OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION ETC)


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Hmm, what to start with? I guess I would have to start with the most recent Titanic event - which is the James Cameron blockbuster movie "TITANIC" that starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

When I first heard about this movie, I was a bit nervous - after all, seldom has such a huge undertaking occurred in regards to the Titanic. While there had been numerous films about the ship, James was doing something almost unthinkable - rebuilding the ship and including recreations of the luxurious interiors. Of course, it was not long before the budget blew out and reports started coming in, stating the movie would be a bomb and an embarrassment to all involved. I had read that in addition to the rebuilding of the Titanic (not as large as the original but still very impressive) and all of the expensive interiors and exteriors, another four models had been built -

* The underwater wreck of the Titanic (which would be used for shots impossible with the real ship)

* Another model of the Titanic that would be used for recreating the ship at sea and the subsequent break-up

* A recreation of the stern, on which close-ups of the struggling passengers would be filmed

* The Carpathia - from which the surviving passengers were undoubtedly grateful to see on the windy morning of April 15, 1912

It was quite an undertaking but given some of Cameron's previous films, I believed that if anyone could make this work, he could.

When news of the imminent production broke, many people around the world began to follow up on every scrap of information they could obtain. When I first heard about it, I have to admit to being very nervous. Was "Titanic" going to be essentially a Hollywood action flick? Based on prior scripts based around the disaster, I was not too sure? Even a recent mini-series based on the disaster opted for the lowest kind of story-telling - based around a would be thief who rapes a woman and then teams up with her love interest to loot passengers. Totally sick - and yet the writers of that same mini series were surprised that their "event" failed to make more than a ripple in the ratings? I firmly believe that if you base a story around a true event, then you have an obligation to portray events as they happened - a little creative story-telling is okay but not if it undermines what really happened. I than began hearing about all of the detail Cameron was insisting upon and it sounded as though he had a genuine commitment to portray events as they really happened and he was not going to 'sensationalise' the tragedy of what happened to the ship and the people onboard. It seemed almost surreal - recreating the Titanic. Initial reports seemed to suggest he was rebuilding the ship itself…


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